3 Steps to Confidence

Self ConfidenceMost of my life I’ve struggled with confidence and I hear the same from other INFJs. Over the years I’ve watched people who appeared confident and worked to figure out what makes them tick.  What I finally realized is that self-assurance isn’t some kind of inborn magic that only a lucky few have.  It’s a specific mind set, a perspective that anyone can learn.

Here are 3 steps that will help start you on the path to confidence:

1.  Stop worrying about what other people think of you

Self-consciousness, worrying about what others will think, is an instant confidence drainer.  People who are confident don’t stress if they’re under-dressed for a party or if people don’t agree with them.  Confident people own who they are and don’t care if they’re different.  They don’t get upset every time they goof up and if someone doesn’t like them they don’t agonize over it, they just shrug and move on.

2.  Be yourself

Imagine a shy person at a party, shrinking back in a corner, obviously worried that no one will talk to them. Now imagine that person sitting comfortably in that same corner, but they are relaxed and are enjoying just sitting quietly and watching the activities around them.  The first person is clearly insecure and anxious, the second comes across as relaxed and confident.  The difference between the two is that the second person accepts their quietness and just enjoys their experience of the party, the first resists who they naturally are and thinks they should be different. 

It’s interesting, once we really step in to our natural preferences, they stop feeling like problems and simply become facets of our personality.  Once I embraced the fact that I remember experiences rather than facts, I was no longer embarrassed that I forgot details and started enjoying my ability to replay the feeling of a sunny day or the joy expressed by the bride at her wedding.   

3. Focus on living a rich life rather than impressing others

You want to be beautiful/handsome, interesting, exciting and magnetic?  The good news is that you have everything you need to be all those things. Beauty?  It’s found in a relaxed smile, enthusiasm and personal style (think of the charismatic appeal of Adrian Brody, who’s exuberant personality makes him attractive, crooked nose and all). You want to be interesting and exciting? You’re both when you’re discussing areas that are obviously fascinating to you, areas that you’ve explored and spent time delving into (check out the engaging and compelling Benjamin Zander on TED.  I don’t care a thing about piano playing but I was riveted when I saw this little talk).  

In other words, the more you focus on who you are in the world, on learning, growing and connecting with others, the more attractive and confident you’ll be.

Sure, there are people who are born with confidence.  They don’t struggle like we do with shyness and insecurity.  But confidence is less about personality and more about self-acceptance.  People who are confident aren’t focused on their flaws, they’re focused on living life.  Rather than asking “Will this person like me?” they ask “What’s this person like?” When they make a faux pax they apologize and move on.  They enjoy who they are, idiosyncracies and all, because they know that their uniqueness is what makes them special.

 

10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life: #9 Stop Trying to Control the World

BossyDon’t you just love it?  That feeling that everything is going as it should?  In my blog post The Illusion of Control I talk about how we fool ourselves into thinking we’ve got things under control.

As “J”s we have a natural desire to arrange circumstances, correct problems, make sure that things run smoothly.  Add our “F” energy to that, all that mushy desire to make sure everyone is happy, and we can end up really overdoing it.

It feels good from our end, arranging things for other folks, but I can tell you from personal experience, it’s not fun to be on the other end of that energy.  When I was growing up my father used to decide what was best for me and then badger me endlessly until I did things his way.  I’ve never felt more disempowered and small than I did after giving in to his pressure.

I talked about defining and protecting your boundaries a few weeks ago, but my topic today is about identifying and respecting the boundaries of others. Because, really, the only person we need to control in life is ourselves. The only circumstances we are entitled to arrange are our own circumstances.  The people in our lives have their own approach to solving problems and if they need our help they’ll ask for it.  And yes, we can organize the heck out of committees, events and special occasions, but the only way we can make sure we’re not overrunning everyone else is to ask permission and accept the answer.

Exercise:  Practice Letting Go

This exercise requires that you step out of your routine and pay attention to your assumptions.  This can be difficult for an INFJ, there is often an inherent feeling of correctness to our opinions, they can feel so right that we forget there are other perspectives.  You can overcome this “assumption of correctness” by stepping out of your personal perspective and taking on the perspective of an “observer self.”  As an observer self, you become neutral, watching yourself interact with others as if you’re watching a movie.

  1. Over the next week, start paying attention to the small decisions you make where you assume that your way, or the way it’s always been done, is correct.  These are the little things, like making the assumption that you and your friend will always have lunch at your favorite restaurant, automatically planning to arrive at a movie 20 minutes early, assuming that you and your neighbor will walk at the same time every day (these are all, by the way, examples from my life).
  2. Start letting the other person decide.  Check in with them to see if they want something different.  A casual way to do this is to say something like “We always go to lunch at Scotty’s, would you like to try someplace else?”  or “What time would it work best for you to leave for the movies?  If you’re in a group and plans are being made, try staying quiet and let the group make the decisions without your input.
  3. For each experience ask yourself the following:
      • What was it like to give up control?  Uncomfortable? Scary? Or was it freeing, a relief?
      • What was the outcome of the new decision?  Did things work out worse, better or the same?
      • How did the other person/people respond to being consulted or making the decision?
      • What did you learn?

Exercise: Who Do You Want To Be?

Who do you want to be when the time for decisions to be made?  Think about your role in your family, friends and co-workers lives and design a set of rules for where you want your limits to be.  By deciding before the fact you’re more likely to be aware as you navigate through this tricky terrain.

As an example, here are my rules:

  • Don’t try to “fix” anything for my adult daughter.  This means that if even if I see her struggling with something I don’t jump in with a solution unless asked. Letting other adults work out their own issues is a sign of respect, not neglect.
  • When I’m planning something as part of a group:
      • Voice my opinion as an opinion, not as a declaration of the way things should be.
      • Listen to the suggestions of others openly, recognizing that their ideas might be better than mine.
      • Step back from the desire that everything be planned, stop worrying about what might happen and just let it happen, knowing that I can handle whatever comes up.
  • Ask for permission before planning, “fixing” or taking over someone else’s effort.
  • Take “No” for an answer.
  • Recognize the fact that just because I think my ideas are right doesn’t mean that they really are.

This is the ninth installment in a series of 10 weekly articles about making the most of being an INFJ.  For previous articles visit 10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life.

10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life: #4 Learn to Say “No” and Mean It

Stop SignBoundaries are a loaded topic for me.  Like many INFJs it’s hard for me to say “No” to someone I care about, and I have the tendency to want to look to others to for happiness.  It takes work for me to get clear about how far I’m willing to go in some situations and to communicate that to others.

I didn’t learn much about healthy boundaries when I was growing up, so I’ve turned to the experts.  What follows is the information I found on how to figure out what’s right for me.

Rights of the Assertive Person

One of our basic rights is the right to say “no” when we don’t want to do something.  David Richo in his “Rights of the Assertive Person” from his book How to Be an Adult elaborates further:

Richo’s list of rights:

  1. To ask for 100% of what you want from 100% of the people in your life, 100% of the time.
  2. To enjoy emotional and physical safety.  No one has the right to hurt you, even if she loves you.
  3. To change your mind or make mistakes.
  4. To decide when and whether or not you are responsible for (a) finding solutions to others’ problems or (b) taking care of their needs.
  5. To say No or Maybe without pressure to decide in accord with someone else’s timing.
  6. To be illogical in making decisions.
  7. To have secrets, to decide how much of yourself or your life you choose to reveal.
  8. To be free to explain your choices or not (includes not having to make excuses or give reasons when you say No).
  9. To be non-assertive when you see that as appropriate.
  10. To maintain the same principles, skills and rights of assertiveness with your partner, parents, children or friends.

Visible and Invisible Boundaries

This is a list I’ve extracted from Anne Katherine’s terrific book Boundaries: Where You and I Begin. She describes how she sets boundaries:

  • I set my physical boundary by choosing who can touch me and how and where I am touched.  I decide how close I’ll let people come to me.
  • I set my emotional boundary by choosing how I’ll let people treat me.  One way I do this is by setting limits on what people can say to me.
  • Healthy, safe expressions of anger by people I’m close to are acceptable. In appropriate anger from an inappropriate person [e.g. strangers] is not.
  • Setting emotional boundaries includes deciding what relationships I’ll foster and continue and what people I’ll back away from because I can’t trust them.

What’s Appropriate?

Katherine also provides a list of what’s appropriate based on orientation:

  • If you’re looking up to a person for guidance, supervision or parenting, you are not his peer.  If he’s your dad, minister, therapist, or boss, you are not required to parent or counsel him.
  • If you’re looking down to a person because she’s a child, a client, or a subordinate, she is not your peer.  She should not be counseling you.  And you should not give her inappropriate personal information.
  • If you’re looking across to a person, she’s your peer.  You support each other.  You confide in each other.  Giving goes both ways.
  • If you’re doing peer things with someone you look up or down to, something’s wrong.  A boundary is being crossed.
  • If you’re looking down or up at someone who’s a peer, something’s wrong.  A wife is not a subordinate.  A husband is not a boss.

 

Exercise: Define Your Boundaries

As you read the lists above you might notice that adhering to them requires lots of decisions. How much do you want to reveal?  Is that person a peer or subordinate?  It’s helpful to explore your answers ahead of time so that as situations occur you’ve already figured out where your boundary is.

Create a Will/Won’t List  – This exercise is designed to identify your boundaries with the people in your life. I use Will/Won’t Lists anytime I find myself struggling with not wanting to hurt someone or feeling like I’m being asked for more than I want to give.

  1. On a piece of paper or Word document create three columns.  At the top of the first column put “Who” and the other two columns are “What I Will Do” and “What I Won’t Do” (see sample below)
  2. In the “Who” column list the significant people in your life or someone who you’re having difficulty setting boundaries with.
  3. In the next two columns list what’s ok and what’s not. In the sample below I’ve listed my boundaries for my family and in general.
Who

What I Will Do

What I Won’t Do

  My Family
  • Understand and accept that they are different from me
  • Be as kind as possible
  • Be respectful
  • Recognize Xmas and birthdays
  • Be kindly honest
  • Respond when they reach out to me
  • Be submissive
  • Feel guilty
  • Engage in games
  • Respond to disrespectful communications
  • Attend family gatherings when I don’t want to
  • Tell them what they want to hear just to keep the peace
  Others in General
  • Be as honest and straightforward as possible
  • Be vulnerable
  • Be proud of my coaching career
  • Extend myself for others when appropriate and to an appropriate degree
  • Be submissive
  • Do things I don’t want to do just to be nice
  • Judge
  • Give unsolicited advice
  • Agree just to be nice
  • Be ashamed of things I like (like watching TV)

Exercise: Practice “No” Sandwiches

As INFJs we can have trouble saying “No.”  We don’t want to hurt feelings or create disharmony.  But in order to observe our boundaries we need to get good at saying no.  The No Sandwich is a great way to do it.

The components of a No Sandwich:

[Statement of regret or acknowledgement]  [Straightforward No]  [Positive follow up]

Statement of regret or acknowledgement – This is an honest, but positive, statement either expressing real regret or an acknowledgement of the other person’s position.  A statement of regret can be simply “I’d love to go but …”, “I’d really like to help but…”  The key here is, again, honesty.  If you say you’d love to go you will be invited again, so don’t say it if you don’t mean it.

If you really don’t feel regret, the first part of your statement can be just an acknowledgement of the other person.  Examples are “I appreciate you including me but…” or “I know that this is important to you but…”

Straightforward No – Keep your “no” simple.  You don’t need to give a reason (which can imply that negotiation is possible) you just need to say no thanks.

Positive follow up – This is just a respectful and kind statement to cement your “no” and take the sting out of it.  They are statements such as ” thanks so much “, “maybe next time” (but only if you mean it), “good luck” or “have fun.”

Here are some examples of a No Sandwhich:

“I love that you want to include me, but I can’t make it.  Have a great time, the weather should be beautiful!”

“I can see that you’ve put a lot of thought into this, but I’m going to do it the way I originally planned.  I appreciate your effort, though.”

“That looks delicious, but no thanks.  How about giving some to Grandpa? He loves cookies.”

“I know that this is important to the school district, but I won’t be able to run the book drive.  Why don’t you sign me up to help collect books?”

If you want to include a reason, by all means do, but don’t argue about it if the other person pushes back.  Consider a statement of “That looks delicious but I’m watching my weight” as an absolute, and if the other person says “Oh, just one won’t hurt,” smile and move away.  You’ve said no.

The truth is, though, that no matter how gentle we are, sometimes people still won’t like our answer, which can be painful for an INFJ.  Our desire for harmony and our concern about hurting others can feel overwhelming when we say “no”.  However, it’s part of life and being an adult to set limits and accept the fact that others won’t always agree with our decisions.

This is the fourth installment in a series of 10 weekly articles about making the most of being an INFJ.  For previous articles visit 10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life.

Networking for Introverts – Mixers & Meetings

I am an introvert. And, until I started my own business, I usually avoided groups of people I didn’t know. That changed, however, when I realized that the best place to make new contacts is networking meetings and mixers. I found that all it took was a shift in my perspective to make networking events not only easy but fun (yes, fun!).

To make the most of networking events:

#1    Relax
Most people are at networking meetings and mixers for the same reason you are – to make new contacts and build their business. Unlike parties, where people often cluster in groups that can be intimidating to break into, at networking functions people tend to mix and chat in smaller groups. Still, walking into a room of strangers can be intimidating.

Some key things to remember :

  • Keep things in perspective – you have nothing to lose. At worst you’ll waste a couple of hours, but you could end up meeting someone who’ll contribute to your success.
  • No one is focused on you, and no one will notice if you stand alone for a few minutes. And if you do stand alone and look pleasant, it’s very likely that someone will come up and talk to you.
  • It doesn’t really matter if there’s someone you don’t click with. We sometimes worry that others won’t like us, but if they don’t, so what? Just move on and find someone you have more in common with.
  • And, finally, remember, you can leave any time you want!

#2  Focus on connecting with people rather than selling them
I’ve met people at networking functions who instantly launched into an obviously memorized long-winded sales pitch for their product or service. Not only was I turned off, but I also didn’t want to recommend them to anyone else and subject others to their pitch.The best use of networking meetings is to connect with other business people who can refer potential clients to you. I’m not saying that you can’t gain clients from these functions, but I am saying that you’ll only get clients if people feel a connection to you, and for that to happen they have to get to know you a bit, and not just hear about your product. Plus, it’s a lot more fun!

#3  Be prepared
Create a short (2-3 sentence) introduction that summarizes the benefits of your service and practice it until it’s easy to remember. At informal events you can use your introduction to describe your business as you meet people. At more structured groups you may be expected to stand up and introduce yourself – if you’re prepared it’s quick and painless. It’s also helpful to write up a list of the benefits of your product and practice saying them before the meeting.

#4  Avoid overwhelm
At the first few networking meetings I went to I felt that every two minutes I was getting information I needed to act on or invitations to participate in other events, classes, or groups. I would get so overwhelmed that I was exhausted by the end of the event, and my automatic answer for all invitations became “No”.

To head off overwhelm, plan to “unpack” the event in a day or two when you have more time. At the event simply tuck business cards and brochures into your bag or folder and make notes about items you want to follow up on. This takes the immediate pressure off and gives you time to recover before trying to process everything.  I also make it a rule to never accept or refuse an invitation at a networking event. I simply respond with a pleasant “May I get back to you in the next couple of days?”   This gives me time to consider the invitation outside of the pressure of the meeting.

Networking events are great place to practice extroverting, and the more I attended the easier and more enjoyable they got.  The trick is to take the pressure off yourself and don’t worry about impressing or selling, just connect with others and enjoy yourself.

Are Your Flaws Really Your Strengths?

grandmother's report card
Image by victoriabernal via Flickr

I grew up thinking that I wasn’t quite as good as other people.  I was shy, not as smart as my older brother (who was, in his words, “brilliant!”), and I wanted nothing more than to be part of the in-crowd in High School.  Finally, after muddling through college, I found a place in the work world where my organizational skills and ability to learn quickly helped me find success.

My corporate career served me well in many ways – I was able to support myself and my daughter, buy a house, and enjoy a bit of the American Dream.  But I never felt really connected to my work.  Sure I had triumphs, times of growth and recognition, but many of my personal qualities – my sensitivity, imagination and soft-heartedness were, for the most part, liabilities in that environment.

But once I’d moved on to the post-corporate world I found that the traits that had made my life difficult in the business arena became assets in my new role as a life coach.   Actually, they were more than assets, they were necessary for success.

The lesson here, I think, is that those parts of us that we wish we could change, those  “flaws” that show up on our report cards or reviews, are really only our flaws as defined by our current environment.  On the flip side of those “flaws” we often find our greatest strengths.  I struggle with public speaking but love writing.  I have a friend who is considered brash by some, but to those she protects she’s a hero.  I have another friend who believes in the goodness of everyone and would probably be chewed up in a big company, but she’s a leader and a glowing success at the school where she teaches Special Education.

When we wish we were different, we hold back what we have to offer the world, and when we do that we end up a pale imitation of the person we were meant to be.  Every personal quality we have, every quirk, is a gift.  And those quirks, those differences, they’re what make us unique, and in our uniqueness is our beauty.

It’s True – They Might Not Like You

As I tried to chat with the woman sitting across the table her gaze slid away from mine.  I scanned the rest of the women in the group only to realize that no one was talking to me.  It suddenly occurred to me that the only person interacting with me at this shower was my friend, the bride-to-be.

Then it hit – they didn’t like me!  It wasn’t that they disliked me, but they clearly didn’t like me.

So here I was in my worst nightmare.  I remember the fear as far back as elementary school, the belief that if I’m not liked, if I’m rejected, then…what?  The world would come to an end?  Time would stop?  I’m not sure what I believed would happen, but that jittering fear was always with me when I thought about social events.

So how did I feel, facing the rejection I’d feared for most of my life?

I was bored.

That’s all.  No shrinking into my seat in humiliation, no fervent wishing I was a million miles away.   I just realized that it was going to be a long afternoon.

And, as I thought about the group, I understood.  Most of the women were suburban moms in their early thirties with kids in elementary school.  And there I was, mid-fifties, divorced, with an adult daughter.  I was just too different, I think I made them uncomfortable.

Once I realized that no one wanted to talk to me, I settled back in my chair and just let the activity wash around me. Most of the women there had been friends for years – they chatted about their kids, planned potlucks, talked about their husbands.  It was pleasant, this murmur of friendship and sharing, even though it didn’t include me.  I was an outsider, but it didn’t really matter because no one was paying any attention to me.

I ended up loving that shower, but not for the usual reasons.  What I loved was how comfortable I felt even though I didn’t fit in. There was such ease in not loading up the experience with needs – the need for acceptance and approval, the need to be one of the gang.  I’d carried the fear of not being liked with me all my life; what a delight it was to find that when the time came to face my fears, they simply vanished.

Copyright © 2010    From The Easy Place

Friending Facebook

I love Facebook and its vast accumulation of in-the-moment thoughts and emotion.  As my friend Jenny puts it, Facebook is “the world’s conversation.”  News, gossip, events, from the significant to the trivial, flow full force like water from a fire hose.  However, as fun as all that activity is, it’s also easy to get lost in that flood of information.  Our little voice is one of thousands, and we can end up with hurt feelings if we don’t adjust our expectations.

I’ve found Facebook to be a great place to practice the art of not overreacting.  One thing that pushes my buttons is being ignored, and on Facebook being ignored is an everyday occurrence. Our posts get lost in our friends’ rapidly moving news feeds, and, even worse, people we reach out to can literally ignore our requests to connect.  I must have sent three friend requests to one poor guy I knew in high school before I realized that every time he received one he was clicking his “Ignore” button.  Whoops.

In order to enjoy Facebook we need to let go of expectations and accept our tiny place in the gigantic flow.  We’ve got to get comfortable with the fact that we’ll often be invisible, that our posts may not be acknowledged, that our voice will blend into the group’s.  We’ve got to learn to accept rejection with grace or at least neutrality, and not make up stories about why someone doesn’t answer us or why they don’t want us in their circle of friends.

Because Facebook can truly be a delight.  With Facebook I know I can stay connected with my childhood friend Donna no matter how far away she is.  I can watch the blossoming of my second cousin’s three daughters even though I’ve never met them.  I can hear what Tim Gunn has to say about Project Runway, and I can see a picture of my daughter’s driveway, covered with snow, a minute after she snaps the photo.

And I get the opportunity to make my own contribution, however small, to the world’s conversation.

Copyright © 2010    From The Easy Place